Recently, the Bishop of Phoenix issued an Apostolic Exhortation to the Catholic men in his diocese. It was an excellent letter that managed to strike the right balance between the excesses of machismo and the excesses of emasculation, providing a vision of masculinity which is both authentic and uplifting. Given the impending Ordinary Synod on the Family, the timing seems like it might not be mere happenstance.
Much has been made (rightly, I think) of the issues related to marriage which currently plague our culture. As Bishop Olmsted notes, after the sexual revolution, things have changed. More men have been using women for casual sex, and more women have been using men as well. Consequently, more women are having children out of wedlock and becoming single mothers or having abortions, often without the support they need. Fewer people are marrying generally, and they are much more likely to divorce, leaving both themselves and their children in many cases in ever more difficult circumstances.
It turns out that telling men and women that it’s just fine to be selfish when it comes to sex and relationships results in them being selfish when it comes to sex and relationships. After all, we really want to believe it, just as we want to believe anything that supports the actualization of our transient desires.
Unsurprisingly, this selfishness has resulted in fewer benefits for all of us in our society, especially women and children, who tend to be more vulnerable to economic difficulties for completely understandable biological reasons. So on the whole, the sexual revolution has had quite deleterious effects for the family in the long term while having all sorts of pleasant effects for individuals in the short term.
Given that many of the problems started with men using women, it seems sensible to begin addressing the problem by enlisting the help of men. If men begin to engage in a radical act of committed self-giving rather than the rather banal act of taking temporary pleasure in others, then we can truly turn the situation around.
For better or worse (for reasons related to evolutionary psychology), women and children are likely to follow the lead of the men in their lives, and if men lead by example with irrational selfishness, then women and children will likely follow, thereby compounding the problem. If, however, men lead by example with radical love, giving freely of their time talent and treasure to their family, then the problem can be resolved.
My sincere hope is that the Synod on the Family can begin to address the need to enlist men in the cause of strengthening the family so that men in general can transform from being much of the cause of the wounds of the family into being the healers of the wounds of the family.